The Awareness Scale: How Social Media, PR & Advertising Now Work Together

Awareness Scale

Since we’ve been pitted against all sorts of different marketing agencies lately — from PR firms to interactive shops to megalithic advertising agencies — I’ve been thinking about the interplay of these disciplines.

How can we help the average corporate marketer distinguish between these puzzle pieces, since Social Media has created such a mash-up of our thinking?

Thus the Awareness Scale. It’s a simple way of thinking about how Social Media, Public Relations and Advertising fit together in an ideal way.

Smart brands are coming to understand that Social Media is an ongoing behavior change that pays homage to grassroots communications: it’s a splendid scary mix of monitoring, communications, customer support and evangelism.  Newly-minted consumer evangelists can provide a bulwark against criticism and better yet, can gin up a wave of goodwill for new products and services.

And what better foundation for a rock-star Public Relations program?  The public approbation found via Social Media engagement softens the beach head for a mainstream media outreach program.  Approving articles in the mainstream are picked up and shared by a brand’s fans, effectively “giving proof” to their belief in the company.

That’s where Advertising comes in: advertising can play defense.  Don’t take that the wrong way.  Ask any sports fan — “Defense” makes or breaks a team’s performance.  As a form of earned (i.e., paid-for) media, Advertising is great for capturing attention that reinforces the consumers’ perception of the brand.  This makes it 10X harder for start-ups to capture mindshare.

This is the Awareness Scale.  It’s a mountain all great brands are learning to climb.

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Posted on: November 23, 2009 at 1:56 pm By Todd Defren
80 Responses to “The Awareness Scale: How Social Media, PR & Advertising Now Work Together”


  • Cadence says:

    This is an excellent example of how awareness is the key area of growth through the impact of social media on public relations and advertising techniques. People are all around just more aware of what is going on, and as we all know, an increase in awareness can easily lead to an increase in revenue and positive reputation. By raising the bar in awareness, a company is experiencing growth in PR and Advertising. This is how social media is changing tactics employed by professionals to fertilize interest rather than begging for profit.

  • David Locke says:

    So what is the Awareness Scale? Where is it defined?

  • Barry OSullivan says:

    V. good post Todd. Of course, there’s no reason to tie any of the communications practice areas you list to the parts of the Awareness Scale you’ve outlined, but as an introduction to, and update of, the concept of the Reputation Management continuum (extant in PR for a looonnnggg time)this is a great conversation starter.

    Also, you wrote “As a form of earned (i.e., paid-for) media, Advertising is great for capturing attention,” but as I’m sure you’re aware, Earned Media is media coverage/space that is not paid for. You earn the media placement, not pay for it.

  • Finally, someone is putting this simple notion out there. Integration is truly the key to success. Nothing in business is simply cut and dry anymore. Advertising, PR, Marketing, SEM. They divisions are blurring and it’s for the best. At this stage of the game, the only way to remain successful is to just let integration happen.

    Tessa Carroll

  • laurent says:


    Great post. SM is about engagement but lacks scale. Advertising is about scale but lacks engagement.
    Tie the 2 together and you build a continuum, kind of a rocket that has it’s first stage fueled by social media and the second stage by advertising.
    But I think the trick to make it really work is that the integration doesn’t stop at just “timeline” but take into account at least 2 more dimensions which are 1) the very diverse nature of communities in SM (niches) 2)the dynamic and multi-dimensional nature of the conversation in those (and ad messages are then built with and from communities.


  • Benson says:

    Exactly! Great post! All of the pieces fit together in a solid communications program, not floating in space independent of each other.

    (In my opinion, please correct me if I’m on the wrong path) Another thing to consider when integrating your program is how do your PR message points convert over to social media conversation starters and ways to engage your audiences.

  • John McCrory says:

    Advertising as defense is a great analogy, since too often it is percieved as offense. But, where do marketing and sales fit in? Are they not part of the awareness scale?

    • Todd Defren says:

      I view Social Media, Advertising and PR as PART OF Marketing, not separate from it. And yea, it is true that there are plenty of additional Marketing tactics that I did not discuss (direct marketing, email marketing, etc.)… for the purposes of a blog post, I like to keep things broad.

      As for Sales – that’s a different ball of wax. I see Marketing as a way of getting leads into the funnel (and to expand the mouth of the funnel!)…

      • John McCrory says:

        Aha. Right! This helpfully sorts out the Awareness part of the funnel. If I’m wearing my marketer hat, tho, I want sales or CS/CRM to be marketing, too — to continue cultivating the customer into a repeat buyer and select customers into brand ambassadors who further help build awareness.

        In reality, those divisions are often separate from one another in most companies (and often for good reasons); interestingly, the use of social media tools within the organization and in connections with partners, suppliers, and customers does seem to be bringing all these stovepipes together.

        Perhaps we’re heading toward a grand unified theory…

  • Finally… someone emphasizing that I’ve been preaching for YEARS! It’s all about INTEGRATION! Can’t wait to see the day when all Comm. disciplines come together and stop working in silo!

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